Western Dressage Exercise – Bending Square

When a horse has a dominant side, and I’ve never met one that did not, he carries a majority of his weight in that respective front limb. This leads to him moving and performing with crookedness, with the dominant shoulder always leading his body. Lightness and correctly off-the-forehand movement will elude him unless this crookedness is remedied. To move with a straighter alignment through his spine, he needs to draw the dominant shoulder upwards and back positioning it equally alongside his opposite shoulder. Then, he will be balanced over all four legs. Another way to describe this would be that he has a leg in each corner of a square drawn on the ground beneath him.

The way to fix shoulder imbalances and side dominance is through bending exercises. When a horse arcs his body correctly to follow a bent line, he draws the weight up and out of his inside front leg, sliding his scapula slightly rearwards as described above. When this begins to happen equally in both directions as you ride bending exercises, you are well on your way to riding a straighter horse! Below is one of my favorite bending exercises because it breaks down the footwork of each bend into careful, measurable pieces. It sets up the horse to offer a consistent response at each bend, emphasizes softness, and promotes accurate, effective riding.

Bending Square

  1. Set up cones and/or ground poles demarcating a 20-meter square.
  2. Begin by riding to the left (counter clockwise) around your square in a working jog.
  3. Proceed down one side of the square in jog.
  4. One to three meters before the corner, transition downward to a working walk.
  5. Emphasize bending your horse inwards around the corner being sure to remain close to your cone/pole markers and not drift out.
  6. Once around the corner, resume working jog down the next side of the square.
  7. Repeat all the corners as above.
  8. After several repetitions as describes, remove the downward transition at each corner and maintain your working jog but aim to create the same deep bends.


Western Dressage Weekly Exercise – authored by Jec Ballou | Copyright © 2014


4 Responses to “Western Dressage Exercise – Bending Square

  • Carol Baldwin
    4 years ago

    Printing directions worked well for me . Thanks Deirdre! CB

  • as a member – why cant i print this article to tsake to barm

    • DMD-Admin
      4 years ago

      Regardless of membership, all are welcome to print the page. We have disabled certain RIGHT MOUSE menu functions because there were people that were plagiarizing our content. If you wish to print out the contents of page such as an exercise, you only need to highlight the text you wish to print. Click on FILE, then PRINT and when the pop up window opens, click on “SELECTION” in the Print Range area of this window and then click OK. This will send what you highlighted to your printer. Hope this helps!